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Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Child Passenger Safety Previous Page

What is the Virginia law regarding child safety seat use?

How long should my child ride rear-facing in a child safety seat?

Is it safe for my rear-facing baby's feet to touch the vehicle seat?

When should my child ride forward-facing in a child safety seat?

When is my child ready for a booster seat?

When can my child ride using only the vehicle seat belt?

Is it safe for my child to ride in the front seat?

How do I get a child safety seat or booster seat if I can not afford one?

How can I be sure that my safety seat is installed correctly? Where do I go for help?

What is LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children)?

Can I use a "hand-me-down" or used car seat for my child?

How can I find out if my child safety seat has been recalled?

Do I need to replace my safety seat after it has been in a crash?

If you have additional questions that are not listed here or you are still having trouble understanding your situation, contact us at 1-800-732-8333 or email a Certified Technician.

Feel free to view our installation videos for a visual demonstration regarding the installation and use of child safety seats, booster seats and vehicle seat belts.

 


What is the Virginia law regarding child safety seat use?

Child safety seats and booster seats are required for all children until their 8th birthday. Safety seats must be properly used and approved by Department of Transportation standards. This law is based solely on age, with no weight or height requirements. The child restraint law is primary enforcement -- no other violation need be committed prior to ticketing for failure to have a child in an approved seat. - Code of Virginia Article 13 - Section 46.2-1095

Rear-facing child restraint devices must be placed in the back seat of a vehicle. In the event the vehicle does not have a back seat, the child restraint device may be placed in the front passenger seat only if the vehicle is either not equipped with a passenger side airbag or the passenger side airbag has been deactivated. The child restraint law is primary enforcement -- no other violation need be committed prior to ticketing for failure to have a child in an approved seat. - Code of Virginia Article 12 - Section 46-2-1095

Children age 8 through age 17 (until age 18) must be belted correctly in vehicle safety belts, in vehicles manufactured after January 1, 1968. This safety belt law is primary enforcement -- no other violation need be committed prior to ticketing for failure to have a child correctly buckled up. No person under age 16 shall be transported in the rear cargo area of a pickup truck. There are exemptions for certain parades and farming operations. - Code of Virginia Section 46.2 - 1156.1

Download a printable flyer of the law in English and Spanish.

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How long should my child ride rear-facing in a child safety seat?

A rear-facing child safety seat supports your infant's upper body, protecting the head, neck and spine and spreading crash forces across the back. A properly installed child safety seat reduces the risk of death by 71% for infants involved in crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Always put your infant in a rear-facing child safety seat in the back seat of your car. A baby riding in the front seat can be fatally injured by a passenger side air bag. Continue to do so until age 2 or until your child reaches the weight or height limit for the seat. Some rear-facing child safety seats can accommodate up to 35 to 40 pounds.

Get help: Certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians are available to check your car seat installation for free. Click here to find your local check station. Or call Virginia's Child Passenger Safety Information Line at 1-800-732-8333.

Is it safe for my rear-facing baby's feet to touch the vehicle seat?

There is no evidence that a baby's feet touching the back of a seat are at risk of injury in a crash. If your baby is having this problem and in an infant carrier, you may consider using a convertible safety seat in the rear-facing position to provide additional room for his or her legs. The benefits of remaining rear-facing far outweigh the injury risks to their legs.

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When should my child ride forward-facing in a child safety seat?

According to the American Academy of Pediactrics, all children 2 years or older, or those younger than 2 years who have outgrown the rear-facing weight or height limit for their CSS, should use a forward-facing CSS with a harness for as long as possible, up to the highest weight or height allowed by the manufacturer of their CSS. Check the instruction manual or seat label for your seat's maximum weight and height limits for rear-facing use.

There are different types of rear-facing car seats: Infant-only seats can only be used rear-facing. Convertible and 3-in 1 car seats typically have higher height and weight limits for the rear-facing position, allowing you to keep your child rear-facing for a longer period of time. If you have been using a convertible seat in the rear-facing position, you'll need to make a few adjustments to convert it to forward-facing (e.g. incline angle, harness slots). Always follow the car seat manufacturer's instructions and your vehicle owner's manual.

Get help: Certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians are available to check your car seat installation for free. Click here to find your local check station. Or call Virginia's Child Passenger Safety Information Line at 1-800-732-8333.

When is my child ready for a booster seat?

Keep your 4 to 7 year old children in their FORWARD-FACING car seat with a harness until they the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat's manufacturer. Once they outgrow their forward-facing car seat with a harness, it's time to travel in a BOOSTER SEAT ... but still in the rear seat.

Restraining a child under the age of 8 with only a seat belt is illegal in Virginia and will put them at risk for serious injury or death. A belt-positioning booster seat raises your child up so that your vehicle's lap and shoulder belt is properly positioned across his/her shoulder and thighs.

Get help: Certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians are available to check your car seat installation for free. Click here to find your local check station. Or call Virginia's Child Passenger Safety Information Line at 1-800-732-8333.

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When can my child ride using only the vehicle seat belt?

Keep your 8 to 12 year old children in their booster seat until they are big enough to fit in a seat belt properly (never before age 8).

Usually children will be at least 4'9" tall when they can fit properly in a vehicle seat belt. It is very important that the seat belt fits correctly before transitioning your child to one. Here is how you can tell if they are ready:

  • Your child has reached their 8th birthday.
  • Your child is tall enough to sit against the vehicle's seat back with her knees bent comfortably over the edge of the seat.
  • The shoulder belt lies snugly across your child's shoulder and chest, not at the neck or face.
  • The lap belt lies snugly across the upper thighs, not across the stomach.
  • Your child can ride in this position for the duration of the car ride.

When children are old enough and large enough to use the vehicle seat belt alone, they should always use lap-and-shoulder seat belts for optimal protection

Get help: Certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians are available to check your car seat installation for free. Click here to find your local check station. Or call Virginia's Child Passenger Safety Information Line at 1-800-732-8333.

Is it safe for my child to ride in the front seat?

It is safest for all children younger than 13 years of age should be restrained in the rear seats of vehicles for optimal protection. In some instances there are not enough seating positions for every child occupant and it is unavoidable to put a child under the age of 13 in the front seat. If this is the case, there are a few options to improve the safety of that child. If the air bag has an on/off switch, turn it off, slide the vehicle seat back as far as possible from the dash, and make sure the child sitting in the front seat is safely restrained by a child safety seat, booster seat, or seat belt. Virginia Law does not prohibit children from riding in the front seat of a vehicle unless the child is secured in a rear-facing safety seat.

How do I get a child safety seat or booster seat if I can not afford one?

The Virginia Department of Health's Low Income Safety Seat Distribution and Education Program promotes, purchases and distributes free child safety seats to eligible families who can not afford them. Click here to learn more about eligibility.

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How can I be sure that my safety seat is installed correctly? Where do I go for help?

Parents and caregivers can receive hands-on help from a Nationally Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician to learn how to install their safety seats through two outlets.

  1. Child Safety Seat Check Stations: Set locations across the state with certified technicians that are available to check the installation of child safety seats. To locate Safety Seat Check Station near you, click here or call 1-800-732-8333.

  2. Safety Seat Check Event : Are one day events that occur in various communities across the state with certified technicians that are available to check the installation of child safety seats. To learn of Child Safety Seat Check Events in your area, click here.

You may also call 1-800-732-8333 for telephone assistance.

What is LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children)?

The LATCH system was created to help overcome the growing issue of incompatibility between child safety seats and vehicle restraint systems. It is comprised of 2 portions: (1) the tether system and (2) the lower anchorage system. While this advancement has aided in combating several incompatibility issues, there are a series of new misuse possibilities that have arisen. Learn more about LATCH through the following resources:

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Can I use a "hand-me-down" or used car seat for my child?

New safety seats are best, but if you have to use a used safety seat, keep the following in mind:

  • Look for the manufacturing date on the seat label. Most manufacturers recommend seats not be used if they are more than 5-10 years old.
  • Seats with obvious cracks, holes, dents, or missing parts are not safe to use.
  • If you do not know the history of the seat, do not use it. It may have been in a crash.
  • Do not use a seat without a manufacturer's label. You need the label to check for seat recalls and determine the age of the seat.
  • Avoid seats without an instruction manual unless you can get a replacement from the manufacturer.
  • If you do have a used safety seat, register the seat on the manufacturer's web site. This ensures that the manufacturer will alert you directly of any recalls to your safety seat.

How can I find out if my child safety seat has been recalled?

Sometimes a defect shows up after a safety seat has been sold resulting in a recall. To be alerted if your safety seat has been recalled, register your contact information with the manufacturer. This can be done my mailing in the registration card that comes with a new safety seat or on the manufacturer's web site. Visit www.hsrc.unc.edu to find out if your child safety seat has been recalled.

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Do I need to replace my safety seat after it has been in a crash?

A safety seat that has been involved in a crash may need to be replaced. The forces in a crash may cause unseen damage to a safety seat. This hidden damage may keep the safety seat from properly protecting the child in future crashes. Do not use safety seats that have been in a moderate or severe crash. Seats that were in a minor crash may still be safe to use. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) considers a crash minor if all of the following are true:

  • The vehicle could be driven away from the crash.
  • The vehicle door closest to the safety seat was not damaged.
  • No one in the vehicle was injured.
  • The air bags did not go off.
  • You can't see any damage to the safety seat.


For specific questions regarding laws and proper use of child restraints call the Injury Hotline at 1-800-732-8333 or email your inquiry to a Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician

 

Last Updated: 03-12-2013

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